Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics'”

Yes, it’s another one of my favorite awkward Ethics Alarms creature, the Comment of the Day on a  Comment of the Day. This time the commenter is Mrs. Q, who had to suspend her regular corner here due to other obligations (I am keeping the corner warm, however) but who still weilds a vivid metaphorical pen.

Here is her Comment of the Day on “Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics”:

“The smug manner in which we are all being told to just hole up in out homes indefinitely is not really helpful. Civilization has to continue.”

This has been the main challenge for a lot of us small business owners right now. How to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining continued client services/purchases. Because I have health conditions that could be severely triggered by a virus like this, the balance of retaining client contact while staying healthy has been a newer challenge.

For updates, find a medical website you know and stick with it. If you surf, you will drown.

The problem is having the time to find a site I “can trust” as just about every site and resource contradicts its previous advice or “findings” practically every hour. If anyone has a suggestion for such a site I’d love to hear it because in the last two weeks this is what I’ve heard from news and medical sites:

  • The virus lives on surfaces for five days or nine days or nine hours or three hours or not at all.
  • Only 1-2% of the population will have severe illness or 10% or 20% or now 30%.
  • Use antibacterial gel or don’t use it because it’s ineffective or use it but make sure it’s 60% alcohol or 70% alcohol or only use non-antibacterial soap.
  • It takes an hour of close contact in an enclosed space to get COVID-19 or you can’t catch it in close contact or you need to be one foot away or three feet or now six feet.
  • Get supplies for two weeks or don’t worry about it or get supplies for a month or one week.
  • Limit your contact and wear a mask or don’t wear a mask or only wear certain masks or masks don’t work or some masks you can’t wear if you have asthma.
  • Go outside or don’t go outside or go outside but not around people.

All the while most of us are trying to maintain businesses, jobs, kids/family members, keeping our homes disinfected, and apparently go to Chinese restaurants so as not to appear as racists. This is why in a recent post here about a pregnant woman whose baby (or clump of cells depending on your view) died from going without medical supervision, I voted that the medical industry has some blame. It’s not just the news that tells us different things but the experts themselves constantly change up advice and precautions. This leaves many who need to work and be safer to think for ourselves and do our best while living our lives.

My wife works at a place a lot of tourists go. She’s pretty sure a co-worker had Corona virus. The worker wanted to get tested but couldn’t and just came back after being gone a week. Though her employer is aware and more and more staff are calling out, the company is business as usual. Should they shut down or stay open? Not to mention this business is basically a petri dish as staff share computers and phones (including a housekeeper who wears gloves to dig into garbage receptacles, removes trash by hand, then uses the same gloved hand to open doors).

So my advice for busy people who care but also need to carry on is:
Prepare for the worst, pray for the best, stay clean and don’t forget to rest.


I’m back, ever briefly, to say that theArs Technica site has been an excellent resource so far.


21 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/2020: Coronavirus Ethics'”

  1. When I prepare a witness for trial, I always remind them that “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate answer if, indeed, you do not know.

    The Governor of Ohio says they have 100,000 cases and that will double every six days. There are currently twelve confirmed cases in Ohio. Could it be 100,000? Maybe – maybe its 300,000,. Maybe it doubles every four days.

    Indiana’s public safety official says Indiana is probably closer to Ohio’s 1% figure – so 70,000 Hoosiers. There are fifteen cases of corona currently confirmed in Indiana. Is it reasonable to think that Indiana , much more rural than Ohio, would have precisely the same percentage? Maybe it has more, maybe it has less.

    And then there are the inverse proportion numbers. I’ve heard that corona is up to 10,000 times more deadly than the flu. But then buckeyes and Hoosiers would be dropping like flies. The more cases found, assuming deaths aren’t proportional, it drives that number down.

    Sometimes, if you don’t know, “I don’t know” is the best answer.

    • And other times, it is better to make an estimate based on available information, especially if there is an urgency to act.

      It can be tempting to wonder if scientists are being alarmist. Certainly that can be a defensible position with something like climate change, where scientists rely very heavily on projections. For COVID-19, we can look to countries that imported cases earlier than the Americas to inform our estimates and decisions.

  2. Housekeeping can be quite bad about doing many tasks with the same pair of gloves. It is not uncommon to clean toilets and then go and fill the paper towel dispenser without changing gloves.

    You have those that are careful to turn the water off with a towel after washing their hands, and then open the restroom door with a towel. Just hope it wasn’t the towel on the top or bottom that was handled while restocking using those soiled gloves.

  3. I recall the early days of the HIV epidemic where lots and lots of misinformation came out: You might be taking chance if you were straight and hugged a gay person, lesbians were suspect, HIV could rampage the heterosexuals community and all this was based on presuppositions that turned out largely based on hunches. Why not take some reasonable precautions and not buy into the hysteria.

    • The HIV epidemic is an extremely poor comparison. It predated modern virology and public health. In addition (and obviously), HIV is sexually transmitted and I assume none question that COVID-19 is spread by droplets and contact with droplet-contaminated surfaces. We also have information about the ease of transmission of COVID-19 in 21st-century, high-income, first-world circumstances from observing Italy and west Europe.

      “Reasonable” precautions depend on your local population density, frequency of travel and reliability of public health testing. If you’re in a remotely urban area, “reasonable” can be close to lockdown.

        • Yeah, I’ve been hoping to see more information on how much of a factor smoking might be. One can’t help but notice that many of the hot zones seem to be in areas where the practice is, and has been, significantly more widespread than in the U.S.

      • One valid HIV analogy is the exploitation of the pandemic to push a political agenda. Though HIV was very rarely passed through vaginal sex, the Right used it to push the narrative that all promiscuous sex was potentially deadly. In fact, the number of people infected through heterosexual sex was vanishingly small.

        • You’re right about Heterosexual sexual transmission of HIV being relatively rare except amongst certain groups such as in the porn industry and women who engaged in unprotected sex with men who visited prostitutes.
          The political agenda however was more pushed by gay activists who wanted to frighten the general public into disproportionately funding HIV research at the expense of other life threatening diseases such as hep-c, various cancers, diabetes, and so on.

        • I have noticed that when leftist leaders get their new Coronavirus Emergency Powers, the first thing they do is ban all firearm and ammunition sales. This has been publicized in Champaign, IL, but several places in MA have also done this. It looks like Nevada is disallowing firearm sales by shutting down down the mandatory instant background check system. Glad to see Democrats are using their powers responsibly to slow the spread of this virus. Maryland seems to have decided that the safest thing to do is shoot into gun owners’ homes at 4:30 AM to kill them while they sleep. Wonderful, this won’t cause concern at all.

          In response, ammunition manufacturers are adding extra shifts to keep up with demand.

      • Anyone who’s had to squat over a hole in the floor to use the bathroom in an Italian train station might dispute that country’s classification as “first world”…

  4. This COTD by Mrs. Q layers the conflicting information artfully. In hindsight it will be interesting to compare with emerging reality. Second the Ars Technica recommendation. Found their piece on the Wuhan V to be more clear and balanced than most.
    I am too close for comfort to public-school hygeine (or rather lack of), and often compare the examples I see every day when I read of other types of situations of mind-blowing scale I read here.
    Amid this viral scare, schools are, as always, dirty, lack supplies, maintenance and enough basic janitorial labor, and are driven by/conditioned to keep bodies in the seats and teachers in the classrooms by the self-perpetuating bureaucracy and testing culture. To say nothing of the role of parental equipment or lack thereof. How likely is it that a new fear of infection will short-circuit that system for the better? I’ll tell you how this looks. This week, amid a barrage of new Coronavirus information, strategies, directives, and huge disinfection contracts, a pinkeye outbreak raged, and a teacher who contracted it stayed at the helm in her class all week long. I wonder if having the blue gloves on helped, and what drove the decision to put them on.

  5. I just pulled out 1995’s “The Coming Plague,” which documents pandemics from the 1960s Bolivian epidemic through to its print in 1995. So far it focuses on the brave epidemiologists who investigated new viruses, exploring their sudden appearances, and the incredible bureaucracies which estopped real information from being disseminated. More when I’ve finished it, but I note that one can get it on Kindle now (how timely). Probably a must read (or must run from). More when I’ve finished it, assuming it can and will shed light on the continuing slew of mis- and dis-information on the Wuhan virus…

  6. Mrs. Q. You don’t sound like your usual calm and confident self. First thing to do is to try and regain that. I will try to answer your questions and quash your contradictory comments. I hope it helps.
    First of all, NO information site is going to help much. You already know what you need to know: symptoms, how to deal with them, and what the latest [add adjective here] local laws are. For a pretty reliable medical source, try WebMD – even though its webmaster goes a bit wild with the page design and it looks like People magazine on acid. It is different from almost all the other sources in that it makes sense, and has a minimum of statistics. Making sense and having a minimum of statistics are the same thing. Hint: It has a Search function which responds better to “Covid19” than to “coronavirus. Excerpts from two examples:
    “most people who have gotten sick – about 80% – [where there are a large number of cases] have had mild to moderate symptoms.

    Given that, doctors feel that most people in the U.S. will be able to manage their symptoms at home.

    If you start to show symptoms, call your doctor’s office. Don’t go there before calling — that might spread the infection around the doctor’s office. They may want to talk to you on the phone in a telemedicine visit.

    #2“In the final analysis, it’s the hands. The hands are the connecting piece,” says Elizabeth Scott, PhD. Scott co-directs the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons University in Boston.

    “You can’t necessarily control what you touch. You can’t control who else touched it. But you can look after your own hands,” she says.

    Hand-washing — with soap and water — is a far more powerful weapon against germs than many of us realize.

    Scott says it works on two fronts: “The first thing that’s happening is that you’re physically removing things from your hands. At the same time, for certain agents, the soap will actually be busting open that agent, breaking it apart.”
    How to Wash Your Hands

    Scrub away! [I disagree with “scrub” and anything that causes pain or breaks the skin] There’s a correct way to wash your hands and get rid of germs.

    Coronaviruses, . . ., are encased in a lipid envelope — basically, a layer of fat. Soap can break that fat apart and make the virus unable to infect you.

    The second thing soap does is mechanical. It makes skin slippery so that with enough rubbing, we can pry germs off and rinse them away.

    Sounds pretty simple, but the vast majority of people still don’t do it right.
    . . . “Lather up. The soap helps germs slip off your skin as you rub your hands together.”

    … [that’s a small part of the article which continues with details about things like types/brands of soap, what to do in public bathrooms, paper towels: One of the reasons I know this is a reliable website is that on the subject of handwashing, the most important thing to do* they don’t mention “hand sanitizers” until the very end as a last resort and then, it’s at least 62% alcohol. I mentioned what alcohol does to skin. Don’t unless you have to. Besides, they’ll probably triple the prices on the “sanitizers”.].

    if I remember correctly, you have pets. Unfortunately, that adds to the number of washing times – but hey, it could be three children under five years old!
    What nobody tells you, which is awful since the lack of common sense information is driving people to obsessive-compulsive behavior, is that you don’t have to go around playing Lady Macbeth every time you touch something at home. The things you use there, given regular housecleaning, are not going to suddenly turn on you. But it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit. And get a good absorbable hand cream to go to bed with. It’s the new erotic activity, washing each other’s hands, finger by finger.

    The rest of the contradictory or ever-changing information you’ve been picking up is just plain silly. No you do not need to use a mask, unless you’re going to visit someone who has an airborne infection of any kind. Keep out of ERs – that’s nothing new.:
    Go out. Stay out of crushes where you will need to brush by peoplel. My local cinema has nearly 1,500 seats. They’re staying open. I’m planning on four movies this week with my friend Pat. We’re both in our 80s, by the way.. The library closed though. If you have a car go out for a ride. Go shopping where you usually do, on your usual schedule or perhaps very early or late. If it’s a small store … phone first to make sure they’re still open. Keep your business going. Ignore statistics. Do something every day that makes you smile. Love one another. Pay no attention to statistics. Oh, did I say that before? You are not a victim. STATISTICS ARE NOT APPLICABLE TO THE INDIVIDUAL. Know that.

    • I can understand why my tone may have seemed different but this is a new situation. In trying to be ethical confronting this, it seems wise to weigh options & practice discernment.

      This blog has taught me much about thinking about how I think, which has in a way made me also think about the thinking process itself. Reason is always best but sometimes getting to Reason takes exploring various roads to get there. In this WuFlu situation one road is PANIC. Another road is…calm. Another road is hanging on every word of everyone who professes to be an expert. Another road is ignoring the many contradictions and doing your own thing.

      I suspect my comment was a reflection of this process for me. I also suspect others are also trying to discern and attempt to find their way to wisdom right now. In the end, as I mentioned, we can only do our best. We practice ethics because we don’t automatically always come to it. To combat fear it helps to name it. Especially when in one day your schools, libraries, etc. close, the police say they won’t come out as much, the grocery shelves are empty, and you’ve lost 50% your of business for the next three weeks.

      When you see people crying from a lack of toilet paper, it’s understandable that it takes time to process the full effect of this virus and the public response to it.

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